Dear Pontiff — Letter #3

September 10, 2010

I just wanted to drop a note and thank you for the invitation, but I really can’t make it.  I hope you have a good visit with the other victims, though.  Mona 

Happy Rosh Hashanah,

What if the Pope really had invited me to one of his face-to-face meetings? Would I have gone? I gave this some serious thought and realized that in order for me to experience such a meeting as safe and positive I would need my own “people” with me to help me survive and remain emotionally healthy. This may seem ridiculous to you, but as a victim of profound and prolonged sexual abuse as a child, by more than one priest, I want you to know that I write this in all seriousness. I want you to understand the scenario as it would impact me and I imagine many other victims like me. 

How can I summon up some of the feelings for you?  Imagine a nightmare in which you are being chased. It is nighttime. Someone is trying to hurt you, to kill you, to rape you. You are running but you can’t escape. You enter a room but the door doesn’t lock. You keep running, keep running. Now imagine that this awful nightmare was actually based on the real fears and real danger that you experienced on a regular basis as a child — bad men who were always trying to get you alone to hurt you, and then threatening you if you told. Imagine the nightmare haunting your sleep for years during your childhood and then imagine it returning in times of stress for decades long into adulthood. Now imagine that you are going to a meeting in which the players in your nightmare drama were going to be in the room with you, in the flesh. And imagine all the fears of being chased, hurt, raped and killed, that haunted your nightmares rising up in your guts and into your throat and swirling around in your mind as you walk into this room, sweating, shaking, clammy, nauseated. Now you have a sense of what it would feel like for me. 

What would I need?
 ~  I would need my therapist because I would need “handling.” Someone talking me through the preparations and keeping me grounded in the present. “They cannot hurt you. You are safe. You are no longer a child, you are an adult. They can’t keep you here against your will. You are going to leave with us and go home. You are not doing anything wrong; you are allowed to tell.” Advocacy and compassion.

~  I would need my husband next to me so I could hold his hand or just lean on him and know he was there and that I would be leaving with him. Safe, male touch.

~  I would need a  group of strong, religious women in the room to balance all the men in clerical garb. Preferably these women would be American Dominicans from the Dominican Alliance. Feminine, Catholic, strength, wisdom and spirituality.

~  I would request that the Pope not wear a medieval costume but the simple, white cassock and zucchetto (cap). I have really bad memories involving a priest in a black cassock and a black biretta (three-ridged, square hat). But I know that would be pushing it.  

As it would not be possible to have all the above people with me when I met with the Pope and all his “people,” it would not be a good experience — at all. It would very likely lead to a serious mental health episode. I worry about those victims who do meet him and the conflicted feelings they must experience. And I worry that they don’t get to bring their “people” with them.  I hope they can process the visit and remain safe and that it gives them what they are looking for.

My 3.00am Prayer — Parental Discretion Advised!

Fuck you, God!

I know — not exactly a good Catholic school-girl prayer, not a very reverent prayer, but real. And you haven’t exactly lived up to the Catholic deal, you know. That whole, “Angels guard me through the night, and keep me safe ‘til morning light” thing? Because they didn’t!  Not even close. I mean, shit! I was what, three? Four? And do you know how long it has taken me to get close to accepting it, facing it? Well of course you know, fifty years. FIFTY YEAR S.  And I still don’t know who that other penis belongs to.

So this was my prayer one night, one sleepless, nightmare-drenched night. Not intentionally scandalous or sacrilegious. Just honest. Let’s face it, it is more real than most of the wordy repetitions mumbled in the name of prayer. And I think God, if there is a God, prefers it real. At least I hope so. Otherwise I am SOL!

And, for the record, it seems I am not done with this blog yet. The impending visit of the Pope to England has me all a dither. Manic, tearful, afraid. Maybe because I recently just narrowly escaped the need to go to England and Ireland myself. I don’t want it to, but it disturbs my equilibrium just thinking about it. So I’ll keep blogging here while I need to.

One Mother’s Son

Conceived in poverty
raised in a working man’s home
taught a trade

Catching his dream only to have it stolen
doing the bidding of a father
so much more to give
duty bound

Did he fulfill one father’s demands
or watch it all turn to sand and flow
between his fingers
desperately grasping

Will death be a comfort to this
one mother’s son
or will he cry out in pain
recognising his betrayer as he gasps

Will he stare at the horizon
willing the sun to hold back from setting
begging for one more moment one more breath
preferring the pain to oblivion

And will he surrender at last and breathe
It is done as tears fall on his cooling cheeks
and jackals gather to gnaw on his bones

Oh that in death he could meet
one loving father’s embrace
and hear
you did well, son,
you did well.

This poem began as a poem about my dad, and then became a poem about Jesus, too. Or the other way around. I’m not sure now. It just took shape around 3.15 am.

Dear Pontiff — Day 2

Dear Pontiff,

As you prepare for your visit to England I just want to express my support for your bishops in my homeland. I want you to know that I realize responding in any kind of meaningful way to accusations against priests takes time. Of course the accusations must be investigated. It would be tragic if a good priest was wrongfully accused; my brother is a religious and I am very protective. But I really think that sixteen years is a bit long for justice to be served.

The only corroboration to my accusations (that I know of) comes from other members of my family who were also raped and molested, so maybe that is problematic. But I wonder if you might try to expedite some help for me. I have spent over $100,000 on therapy, medication and hospitalization. I don’t expect to recoup that, and I am not interested in bankrupting any diocese. But help going forward with therapy would sure be useful — this millennium preferably.

M

Dear Pontiff — Day 1

 

Dear Pontiff,

I hear you are going to visit my homeland, England, next week. So I thought we should get to know each other. I wrote a poem recently that I’d like to share with you.

 Child of Grace 

Child of grace
God’s anointed
Men in black
Are they God’s plan?
Trusted
Tested
Tempted
Tasted
“Come here, child,
I’ll soon be done.”

“On your knees
Child of Satan.
Touch me, suck me
Temptress, whore.
On your knees
Beg God’s forgiveness
And I’ll absolve you
And beg for more.”

M